On August 29, 1999, the world became a better place. Reason being, this was the day that a sweet baby boy named Jordan Hunter Self was born.
Jordan was the first child of any of our group of friends. You know, when you are at that age when all your friends start having babies… Well, he was the first, and we loved him so. Scott and I spoiled him as best we could. We loved buying him the loudest noise-making toys, much to his parents chagrin. But they made sure to return the favor by giving Zoe SEVERAL old Barney DVD’s that we had to watch non-stop. I’m still not a fan of purple to this day!
The other thing that made Jordan so special was that he was adopted. My friend, Kristi Self, had learned of Jordan through her job as a social worker. She told me several years ago that when she first laid her eyes on him, she fell in love and knew he would be theirs. I remember all the paperwork and steps they went through to get her parents to become foster parents so he could live with them. I remember more paperwork and steps in Brett and Kristi’s process of becoming foster parents, and then adoptive parents. Mainly, I remember all the waiting. So much waiting. But all the waiting finally paid of in January 2001, when sweet baby Jordan was legally a Self. (As far as the heart goes, he’d always been a Self!)
One Wednesday night after youth at church, Kristi and I were standing in the lobby waiting on parents to pick up their students. She told me that they were thinking about adopting Jordan and asked what I thought of that. I remember being speechless for a moment which, if you know me at all, is a rare event! I told her that I thought it was the best thing I had ever heard. My heart immediately overflowed with joy.
But to me with my naive, rose-colored glasses view of the world, I assumed everything would be super easy to adopt a baby. I had no idea how hard it really is. As I mentioned above, the paperwork and red tape you have to go through is unbelievable, especially when DHR and termination of parental rights is involved. Then there is the financial burden that comes with adoption. Many times, there are medical issues that have to be dealt with. Plus, there was the social implication that totally took me by surprise.
See, Jordan doesn’t look like Brett and Kristi. He’s black. And some people didn’t think a white couple should adopt a black child. I remember being in public with Brett, Kristi, and Jordan, and the terrible looks they would get from white people AND black people. Kristi even had to quit her job as a social worker due to the way people treated her for adopting Jordan.
But all of those ‘Self-less’ acts – the paperwork, the court appearances, the financial burden, the bad looks, the loss of a job – are far outweighed by the joy Jordan has brought to their lives. The way he would eat pats of butter at a restaurant, the way he would smile at you with those big brown eyes, the way he would sit in your lap, sucking his thumb and rubbing your ear – he made their world complete. And still does. When Kristi chose to lose herself, she actually found her Self. When Brett chose to lose his self, he actually found his Self. Jordan Hunter Self. And isn’t that exactly what scripture says? Matthew 16:25 says, ‘Whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.’
I’m by no means an expert at adoption. Little did I know the adoption of Jordan Self would be the first of many that I would be blessed to witness. Some adoptions were under similar circumstances as Jordan, where they adopted a child that was in foster care. Many friends have adopted children from overseas, like China, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and the Ukraine. And some were private adoptions here in America. Regardless of the logistics and the circumstances surrounding the adoption, there is one common thread. Selflessness. A love that sacrifices self for someone else. A love that is more concerned with the needs and wishes of others than with one’s own.
I actually looked up the definition of the word ‘adopt’, and this is what I found: “to take by choice into a relationship; especially”. When I read those words, I felt as though my heart did a somersault! For some reason, I thought it would mean something like ‘to take care of’ or ‘tend to’, but it said ‘take by choice into relationship’. Well, that’s exactly what Christ did for us, described so beautifully in Romans 8:15, “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we may call him, “Abba, Father.”
I’ve read that verse hundreds of times – and even thought of it in context with earthly adoption. But for some reason, this time, the words were alive. Just like Kristi and Brett, by choice, took Jordan into relationship, God, by choice, took me into relationship. He went through much more than paperwork and red tape, money and bad looks in order to take me into relationship. He went through a wooden cross and red blood, humiliation and scrutiny just to call me His. And although I know I am not worth even one glance from His eyes, He saw me and like Kristi said about Jordan, “I fell in love when I first saw her, and I knew she would be mine.” So although I said I’m not an expert in adoption, I guess I was lying. I was adopted long, long ago.
I was able to spend this past Saturday with the newest ‘adoptee’ that we know, Miss Dannie Rae Harbison. She was adopted from China by our good friends Brandi and Micah back in January. I almost couldn’t look at her without being on the verge of tears the entire time. Not just because I knew how long they waited before she was able to come home, and not just because I knew their desire to be parents, and not just because how much better Dannie Rae’s life is now, but because I saw firsthand a real life picture of God’s great love towards us. It was a beautiful day.
Adoption has to be one of the most Christ-like things we can do. James 1:27 says “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” So to all my brave, Christ-like friends who have taken a part in the adventure that is adoption, please know that what you are doing makes a difference. Actually, it makes more than a difference – it makes everything. Especially the ones who have chosen to adopt older children or children who have been through a lot in their past and have their own set of struggles, hear this: keep going. Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in well doing, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” So don’t give up! And thank you for being an example to the rest of us, showing us how to love like Christ does.
And if anyone reading this is contemplating the idea of adoption, I wanted to share something my friend Brandi (mentioned above) posted recently:
“I love this kid!! I hear people say, “I don’t know if I could love a child I didn’t give birth to as my own.” I am here to tell you that Dannie Rae Harbison is as much “my own” as any child ever could be! No, I didn’t’ carry her in my womb and I missed the first two years of her life, but my goodness what Jesus can do when you let love in! If you are considering adoption, don’t buy in to that lie! Just open your heart and obey! You will be blow away by the life changing love you share with your child, no matter how they come to be yours!” – Brandi Harbison
There’s no better way to say it – just open your heart and obey. Whether He’s calling you to adopt, or perhaps you have never been adopted by God yourself, I promise, your life will never be the same. For when you lose your life for His sake, you will indeed find it again, and better than you could have ever imagined.